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User group meetings offer opportunities for learning and networking

This month, SearchSoftwareQuality.com is focusing on career development and growth. One popular way to learn more about your area of interest, enhance your skills and meet others in your field is to attend user group meetings.

But how do you find user group meetings? One place to start is meetup.com. Meetup allows you to search for local meetings about just about every topic under the sun. You plug in your zip code and keywords of areas of interest and, voila, you will get a list of all kinds of opportunities and events. This is how I found The Boulder Agile Software Meetup Group which I attend monthly.

This group is very informal and typically consists of a group discussion among members about challenges they encounter, tools they use or stories about how agile is being used in their work place. By attending, members are expanding their knowledge and meeting others who have experience using agile successfully.  This is beneficial, not just from a learning perspective, but from a career perspective. By finding others that share your passions and interests, you will undoubtedly gain a network of colleagues that will allow you to help one another throughout your careers.

You can find other groups in your area by using search engines, social networking tools or searching in Yahoo groups. In Getting Connected: How to use social media to become a software quality expert, I explain how to find groups and connections in LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. To find agile user groups, check the Agile Alliance Agile User Group page. Using the Internet, there are options even for those who live in remote locations. I facilitate a network called Beyond Certification for those interested in distributed agile. Our meetings are held via conference call so that anyone can participate.

There are plenty of opportunities to connect with others to learn, network and share ideas.  I highly encourage those of you that are looking for a way to grow in your careers to seek out user groups and professional networks in your area. And then take the next steps: join, participate and have fun!

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